Australian charged over “prank” coronavirus cough on police

  • March 25, 2020

An employee posts signs on a window of an office, as New South Wales begins shutting down non-essential businesses and moving toward harsh penalties to enforce self-isolation to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

An Australian man has been charged over a “prank” in which he coughed on a police officer on purpose while pretending he was infected with the new coronavirus as a friend filmed the incident, authorities said.

The man, aged 21, went into a police station at Coffs Harbour, a coastal city about 525 km (326 miles) north of Sydney, on Tuesday and approached a 71-year-old female officer.

“(He) deliberately coughed on the woman and claimed he had COVID-19, while a friend filmed,” police said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The police station was closed and isolation protocols put in place while authorities checked his status. It turned out he did not have the virus that has infected more than 2,000 Australians and brought most of the country to a standstill.

Authorities did not identify the man or give any detail about his motive other than to call the incident a prank.

The man was charged with stalk or intimidate with the intent to cause fear of physical harm, and resist or hinder a police officer in the execution of duty.

He was granted bail to appear in court on May 6.

This week, the country’s third-largest lender National Australia Bank Ltd said it dismissed an employee after the staffer falsified a positive coronavirus test result, sparking an evacuation of its offices.